Coutts Memorial Museum of Art
El Dorado, KS
Charles Sanderson in Retrospect
November 10 - December 17, 1999
In the middle of the Kansas Flint Hills, Charles H. Sanderson was born at Hamilton on March 6, 1925. He studied architecture at Kansas State University, transferring to Emporia State University where he earned a BA in art education. He completed his studies at Fort Hays State where he obtained his master of fine arts degree.
Choosing a career as an art instructor in the public schools, he taught at Altoona, Lyons (three years), EI Dorado (five years), and Wichita (twenty-six years). During these years he also taught classes for Butler County Community College, Kansas State University, Friends University, Wichita State University, Wichita Art Association and the Wichita Art Museum.
Charles married Ruth Wachholz in 1952, shortly before beginning his teaching job in El Dorado, moving to Wichita in 1959. His artistry and reputation grew. For more than 35 years he maintained a full schedule of painting and art instruction, spearheading experimentation and development in an endless variety of styles and techniques. His daughter Charla found the following scrawled on two sheets of paper in his sketchpad. "The paintings are my feelings of Kansas. They are not copies of Kansas, but expressed through my ability to paint. I do not believe they are great examples of art, but they do depict my honest statement of Kansas. I don't like to paint pretty pictures, but try to force the observer to think about the moods of Kansas. I would love to paint in the style of DaVinci, Pollack, Wyeth, Peak and others. I know my limitations to paint, but strive to improve. I've learned to appreciate all of the arts, which is important for every artist to grow within themselves." Originally, he had written this line: "I know my abilities to paint." But then he scratched out "abilities" and substituted "limitations."
Charles developed a distinctive artistic vision that has made him one of Kansas' most respected artists. He served as juror and lecturer and gave watercolor demonstrations to fill his already busy schedule. A founder and five times president of the prestigious Kansas Watercolor Society, he was a leader in making the annual exhibition one of the best regional shows in the nation.
In 1985 Charles retired from teaching, planning to devote full time to enhancing his career as an artist. He said this about teaching, "I know there are some students I can't reach. Others you just click with. They know what you're trying to get them to do ... I'm for creativity, and there have been a lot of things created in this room. There have been wild days and calm days. And days I didn't understand at all. It's gone by fast. Yes, I'm going to miss it."
Unfortunately, Charles' life also went by too fast. He died in 1993, leaving a long list of artistic accomplishments for such a short life. His work was included in many juried National and Regional exhibits In Kansas, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Montana, Arkansas, Utah and France to name a few. He received numerous awards and was featured in many publications including Who's Who in American Art, Who's Who in the Midwest and Who's Who in Wichita.
The exhibit shows examples of his many styles of painting, but it is only a small portion of the extensive amount of work that he produced. The Coutts Museum is proud to have two works by Charles Sanderson in its permanent collection, "Snowblink" and "Untitled landscape." Also on temporary loan to the museum is "Refugee Family" which is owned by Jim and Ann Graham. Charles' work can be seen in many permanent collections that include a lengthy list of museums, city buildings, colleges, libraries, schools and corporation and private collections worldwide.
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